Heng Swee Keat picked as 4G leader, with Chan Chun Sing as deputy

Decision by younger PAP team paves the way for Heng to become Singapore's fourth prime minister

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat was appointed first assistant secretary-general of the People's Action Party, making him the most likely candidate to succeed Mr Lee Hsien Loong as Singapore's next prime minister.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said at the PAP media conference yesterday that he asked Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing - who has many strengths and would complement him very well - to be his deputy.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said at the PAP media conference yesterday that he asked Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing - who has many strengths and would complement him very well - to be his deputy.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, 57, has been chosen to lead the fourth-generation (4G) team of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), paving the way for him to become Singapore's next prime minister.

Mr Heng is now the party's first assistant secretary-general, with Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, 49, playing a key role as second assistant secretary-general and his deputy.

The announcement of their roles yesterday in the new slate of office-holders for the PAP's highest committee marks a major point in Singapore's leadership transition and answers the pressing question of who will succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Speaking at a media conference at the PAP headquarters in Bedok yesterday evening, Mr Heng said the younger team chose him as their leader, and he accepted it.

He then asked Mr Chan to be his deputy, saying the former army chief and labour chief has many strengths and would complement him very well.

Mr Heng said: "Leading the party and governing Singapore are massive and complex tasks. No one person can do it alone." It was a point both he and Mr Chan reiterated several times at the press conference.

"I am heartened that I have the backing of a strong team," he added.

A group of 30 younger PAP MPs issued a statement yesterday saying they reached the consensus that Mr Heng will lead the team and endorsed Mr Chan as his deputy.

In a Facebook post last evening, PM Lee, the party's secretary-general, said he supports their decision and is happy with the outcome.

Mr Heng and Mr Chan have complementary strengths and make a strong pairing, PM Lee added.

"I am confident that they will continue to grow in experience and touch, and steadily win the confidence and trust of Singaporeans."

The Prime Minister also said he will announce changes to the Cabinet in due course, and observers expect Mr Heng to be appointed deputy prime minister.

Both Mr Heng and Mr Chan entered politics in 2011 and have held various key portfolios.

Mr Heng was made education minister, and chaired key initiatives like a national conversation series to engage citizens and a committee tasked with devising strategies to grow Singapore's economy in future.


After the CEC (Central Executive Committee) meeting, I held a party caucus to brief our MPs on the new line-up of CEC appointments, and on the consensus that the younger office-holders had reached on who is to lead them. The MPs endorsed the choice of Heng Swee Keat as their next leader, and Chan Chun Sing as his deputy.

Leadership transition is always a complex and delicate matter. The younger ministers themselves must decide who is to lead them, as they have done in this process. This way, they will give their full support to the leader whom they themselves have chosen.

I support the decision of the younger team, and am happy with this outcome.


But his political future came under serious doubt when he suffered a stroke during a Cabinet meeting in May 2016. He, however, made a miraculous recovery and returned to work about three months later.

Yesterday, Mr Heng gave the assurance that his doctors have given him a clean bill of health, and said he is in even better shape than before. "I would not have taken up this appointment if I do not have the confidence that my health allows me to do it," he added.

On why he picked Mr Chan as his deputy, Mr Heng said they complement each other well in their styles and areas of expertise.


He cited how they have good experiences working together, including setting up the Early Childhood Development Agency.

Mr Chan has been doing a lot of groundwork with various organisations, including the labour movement, the People's Association and the party itself, he noted, adding: "It is important that we pool together our strengths to mobilise."

On his part, Mr Chan said he has great respect for Mr Heng's capabilities, particularly his considerable international experience and knowledge of financial markets.

"As a team, we will complement one another, leveraging our respective strengths to do our best for Singapore," he added.

The PAP's 4G team has strengths in different areas and a range of skills to deal with a complex set of internal and external challenges, Mr Heng said. "I am confident that we will work well together to take Singapore forward and to improve the lives of Singaporeans."

READ MORE: Political transition to 4G leaders

How PAP's 4G team chose their leader

Heng: Life-and-death episode strengthened commitment to serve

Heng on how he plans to lead

Key challenge will be keeping party cohesive and united

PAP co-opts four new members into Central Executive Committee

Heng and Chan have complementary strengths, make a strong pairing: PM Lee

Heng Swee Keat brings an 'open, consultative' approach

Chan Chun Sing stays close to ground despite swift rise

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2018, with the headline 'Heng picked as 4G leader, with Chan as deputy'. Subscribe